Tag Archives: consultant chef

Maafushi Dining Guide

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Maafushi main street

 Having decided we needed a break from work and the little island we call home, we decided to take a trip for a few days and go stay at an inhabited island to also get a taste of the ‘real’ Maldives. About 90 minutes ferry ride from the capital Male, Maafushi is an inhabited island with a population of about 1,200. There are over 15 guest houses and boutique hotels on the island and seems to be a popular spot for a bit more of a ‘budget’ Maldives experience with average room prices from $25 to $150. IMG_0067Just for your information a normal price for a hotel room in a Maldives resort is in the 600-1,000$US a night range! Beaches are nice enough with the best spots on the left and far side of the island opposite the jetty (North East). The other side houses the prison and the beaches there are non existant and full of floating and beached rubbish. Quite shocking the amount of pollution and rubbish management in this country really, but that’s for another post…

IMG_1501I had a look on google for places to eat while on the island but couldn’t really find any decent information so decided to write this post. The island consists mostly of tourist shops selling wooden trinkets and souvenirs and guest houses or boutique hotels. There are also a couple of small stalls on the beach selling things like drinking coconuts for 3 times the price you pay in Male and a few mini mart type places selling basic groceries of the tinned IMG_1500variety and maybe a little bit of fruit. Self catering options don’t seem to really exist; the guest houses rely on the income from food revenue and even if you did have kitchen facilities the available food variety isn’t great and probably not to non-local tastes. I couldn’t find any take-away joints so dining at a guest house/hotel seems the only option. An average price for a main course should be between 45 and 75MVR which is between 3 and 5$US.

I have put together some information of all the places we went to during our stay so as to help any future visitors to the island avoid the tourist traps.

Day 1

Dinner: Kaani Beach Hotel (North West by the beach side main road)

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Kaani Beach Hotel, nice rooms bad restaurant

The hotel itself is quite nice. We had a beach view room and the rooms were clean with a decent balcony. Staff were friendly but are in desperate need to training unfortunately. Despite my reservations of using the hotel’s restaurant we were tired and thought why not, it won’t be too bad..? Yeah wrong. Drinks order took 25mins to deliver some of the drinks and 35mins to deliver the rest (a coke?!). Was an hour wait for some fried chicken and chips and a minute steak with chips and salad. Also ordered a Shepherds pie. After all, we thought yeah we’ll order something nice and simple looking forward to a homely simple meal. This special dish beat my already lowered expectations. Apparently Shepherds pie consists of some mixed vegetables in a mystery white sauce topped with some glue like bread. BIZZARE. So strange I checked to make sure this was actually the Shepherds pie, apparently it is. I really wished I had taken a picture of this dish as it is actually the worst thing I have ever been served in a restaurant in my life. This was right after they tried to bring us another dish we hadn’t ordered. All this and there was 3 tables in the place with maybe 8 diners in total. Shocking. And at the end it was about 40$US which is at the upper end and quite expensive (about half a week’s wages in this country).

Day 2

Breakfast: Kaani beach hotel

Being the sucker for punishment that I am and having been unable to google anywhere else for breakfast the night before, decided to have our included breakfast at the hotel. Yet again I had low expectations, considerably lowered since our experiences of the night before but were still a little surprised. Juice from a powder sachet, corn flakes, cold lentil curry, warm room temp milk, baby corn in ketchup, grated coconut, chapati, and the highlight: chopped papaya. To be fair the coffee was nice and hot even if it was instant and they offered to cook us eggs. Which took about half an hour (yet again only about 3 tables in the place) and they managed to break and over cook the yolk yet under cook the white, even sous vide this is quite hard. Now if this was a $15 buck a night hostel then well that’s what you might expect but our bill for our room was about $110US a night so it would normally be safe to assume something half decent.

Lunch: Rehendi Restaurant (Next to Kaani Beach Hotel)

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Viet Cong Punji Stick Burger

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Rehendi Restaurant

This place was right next door to our hotel and I had hopes of maybe a half decent burger of some description. The food here was pretty average and priced also about average. Not a bad place. Although it took an age. This seems to be the common theme with places here, it took half an hour for a bottle of water. Now I have lived and worked in islands before and thought I had realistic expectations. But half an hour for a bottle of water when we are the only people in the place?? Come on…! When I went to enquire I was told “coming”. Now it’s a bottle of water, what’s coming? The water bottle delivery? Really not sure what was going on there. This place is also the home of what I call the “Viet Cong Burger”. The food arrived and was ok, the burger was about what I expected and came with fries and about 1tbspn of coleslaw. I thought, hey lets put the slaw in my burger, I open it up and see a submerged toothpick inside ready to impale my lip or mouth much like a booby trap back in ‘Nam! I counted myself lucky… I had flash backs of Tom Berenger in Platoon yelling at me to “Take the PAIN!!!”

Dinner: Venturo Restaurant (about half way along the main inland road)

IMG_1496Having gone for a bit of a wander during the day we found this place on the main drag. When we first walked in there were three guys playing cards which gave the impression we had walked into somewhere we shouldn’t have! A little bit like the Russian roulette scene from The Deer Hunter… But yes it was the restaurant and we were sat upstairs. We ordered a couple of pastas; macaroni and a bolognaise. Which turned out to be farfelle and fusili, both coming in a canned vegetarian tomato sauce. Not what I ordered but the pasta was actually cooked perfectly el dente and it was hot and came out in about 25mins, so very acceptable especially in the scheme of things! Down side here was that the food was more than twice the price of the other places we had been to with the exception of Kaani Beach Hotel.

Day 3

Breakfast: Kaani Beach Hotel

Back here again for breakfast… dear oh dear. Moderately better than before. Pretty much the same except instead of lentil curry and baby corn in ketchup there was sliced processed frankfurters in ketchup and baked beans. I was grateful for baked beans. We ordered eggs again. A solitary boiled egg, cold in the middle and a fried egg, this time so raw that it was possible to see through the top half into the bottom half. I asked for it to be quickly flipped over please. 20mins of waiting later fuck this I’m outa here.

Lunch: Leisure Boutique Hotel (green building about half way between Kaani Beach and the Jetty)

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This was a place on the main beach side road. Really friendly staff and looked like it was a husband/wife running the place. Had a decent fried rice and fried noodle. They also do Shisha for 5$US. A bit on the pricey side being more than Venturo Restaurant but better quality and sitting outside in the garden eating was nice.IMG_0167

Dinner:White Shell Beach Inn (North side of the island, beach side)

IMG_1502Now I thought ok, there has to be somewhere half decent round here and spotted this place. For 100MVR (about 6.50$US) you could get a whole chicken and if we had of been staying longer I would have come back. We ordered the grilled chicken meal for two which came with a decent amount of coleslaw and rosshi (chapati) and at 150MVR was really good value and a very simple but really enjoyable meal. Was all out within about 25mins too which was great.  Yay!IMG_0173

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Male fish markets and sustainable fishing in the Maldives

IMG_1478Not being an early riser we arrived at the markets most likely after all the good stuff had since been sold. It was roughly lunchtime, the jetty being busy with local boats, tourists arriving and departing Male on day trips and the Coast Guard doing whatever it is the Coast Guard does.

The ferry crossing was rather pleasant if not a little hot but that is normal here. We had experienced some extreme weather the week before with some ferries cancelled due to the high seas. Being able to go from one place to another irrespective of the weather is something you take for granted not being from a sea faring nation.

IMG_0008“Smells like low tide…” ah yes, we must be nearing the fish markets! I always like visiting the local markets wherever I am working. It’s important to see what’s available and what the prices and quality is like. If you can get away with using local instead of imported and cutting down on the food miles then it is better do so for both the environment and the budget. I have to say that at first glance the fish markets were uninspiring at best. There was the inevitable smell, the sad looking dead octopus on the floor surrounded by flies and what I hope are the small sized rejects that didn’t get snapped up first thing in the morning. Mental note: get your arse out of bed earlier next time…!

IMG_0002Most of what was on offer was Tuna along with some smaller herring type fish, a couple of fish that I am more used to seeing in an aquarium or voiced by Ellen DeGeneres on a particular kid’s film and a type of anchovy like sprat. Tuna make up a significant proportion of the economy in the Maldives. Fish and coconuts are pretty much the only readily available resources here with fishing only being eclipsed in the economy by tourism about three decades ago. All the fishing in the Maldives is done by hand with either rods (modern or traditional) or hand lines; netting is forbidden. Which is really good news for the sustainability of the Tuna industry. At first I was shocked at the sizes of some of the Tuna on display having previously worked in the Cook Islands and seen the monsters hauled into the kitchen on wheel barrows. But it seems that a lot of what is caught are Skip Jack Tuna whose normal size is 1.5 to 5 kg, with an average 35cm fish coming in at about 3kg, although I am certain some of the fish I saw were suspect. IMG_0004Skipjack tuna are a smaller variety than the endangered Blue Fin tuna. The problem is that juvenile Yellow Fin and Big Eye tuna swim with adult Skip Jack. Much of the Skip Jack fishing around the world is done with purse seine vessels which use large nets and catch indiscriminately like those in finding Nemo. (I have a 3yr old daughter so know that film well…!) What this does means is that as much as 30% of a catch is of the less common Tuna variety caught and killed before they have reached breeding age thus creating a bit of a vicious cycle of diminishing numbers.

IMG_0034At the markets the quality of what was on offer was not the best. Although I’m sure it was fresh that day as there was no refrigeration it’s definitely not what I would exactly call sashimi grade. Tuna needs to be killed quickly and bled in order to produce a good quality product. This usually involves a spike to the brain. If death does not come quickly then the stress causes a build-up of lactic acid which results in a dull looking, greyish flesh instead of the nice bright colour we are used to. If the Tuna is not bled then you end up with an excessive blood line which is full of Mercury and not really fit to eat. That said, how Tuna is prepared locally here is very different from how you would serve it back home. Instead of sashimi, or lightly seared or grilled most of it ends up in a curry or a traditional Maldivan spicy Tuna soup whose name eludes me but is not really my cup of tea anyway. IMG_0006If you did so choose to take a fish home then you could do so cheaply for about $3US per kg and have it wet filleted on the spot by some very fast and talented filleters. Maybe they are looking for a job…?

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Working in “Paradise”…

Living and working on a tropical island

DSC_1735The standard remark from people when I tell them where I work is “wow it must be great working in paradise!” Although I think people forget that working somewhere and being on holiday there are two completely different experiences! Working somewhere with a stunning view is great but unless you manage to have a good life/work balance then the inside of the kitchen walls all look the same no matter which part of the world they are in.

Problems and solutions

Living on an island can feel a little bit like Alcatraz sometimes and the boarding school mentality can sometimes set it. The saying “don’t shit where you sleep” is not applicable in these circumstances! It is important to stay away from the gossip and the politics for once you start down the dark path forever will it dominate your destiny. Make sure you get your own space so you can separate yourself from work. Working and living on site can be great because you’re nice and close to work and can be at work quickly if something goes tits up, but it can also be difficult because you’re nice and close to work and are often back at work quickly when things go tits up. Whether you go for a swim, go to the gym, play some Xbox or go on a day trip, it is a really good idea to get a break from the scenery, the people and the work to mentally recharge your batteries.

Different cultures

People in different parts of the world work and live in different ways. A multi-national kitchen brigade is no different. Often some nationalities will naturally have difficulties working together due to cultural differences. There are often language barriers also. It can also be a struggle sometimes trying to manage a diverse group of people. For example in one person’s culture it may be disrespectful to give someone a “no” answer, so one needs to take this into consideration when asking questions such as “is all the prep done?”  Or “did you follow the recipe?” As a manager it is up to you to learn the right approach to get the best out of your staff and understand and embrace these cultural differences.

Logistics

Working in a remote location or a semi-remote location poses a number of issues that one takes for granted when working in a city. When working in the CBD of a modern city you expect to be able to place your order at the end of the night, for the delivery to arrive by a set time in the morning and for the quantity and product to be correct and for the item to be of good quality. In remote locations, despite all your morals pointing away from it, sometimes you have no choice but to work out of the freezer. Perhaps you can only get a seafood or meat delivery one time a week or maybe even longer. You need to make a choice; do we buy in chilled and either run the risk of running out or serving old product? Not serve meats at all, or serve pre-frozen meats and defrost them carefully in the chiller overnight? Because of your location you sometimes have to make these difficult decisions. Often it is best to look at what’s available and work with that rather than trying to do something that is often unavailable or bad quality and end up pulling your hair out. All that you can do is do your best with what you’ve got.

Pros

IMG_1113Working on an island (third time for me now) can be a very rewarding and challenging experience. If you go back to civilization then things do seem a hell of a lot easier! Make sure you try to make the most of what you have and enjoy it while you can. Don’t focus on the negatives and how you would like things, go with the flow and embrace that which you do have, not stress over what you don’t.

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Moet and Magret

General Manager vs Chef, Centara Ras Fushi

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GM back in the whites: slipping on the chef’s jacket like slipping into a warm bath

It seemed like a great idea at the time, although 13 hours in with sore legs and sweating like a fat kid in a candy store I was wondering the soundness of my decision. Having recently come to the Maldives I had last worked with my General Manager 8 years ago when he was my Executive Chef and I was a CDP with considerably fresher legs and lower cholesterol. Considering how much effort it now takes me to get to the bottom of the service fridge and how painful a once normal split shift has become, I was looking forward to seeing my old chef don his whites and sweat it out in the kitchen one more time. We took over the Italian restaurant and show kitchen and created a 5 course menu for the night. Avoiding cooking for a full restaurant alone Hell’s Kitchen styles we sensibly took 2 courses each: myself scallops and duck, Ulrich prawns and dessert; the winner decided by popular vote. With pride on the line and the promise of some champagne we sharpened the knives and started cooking. 

And so it begins…

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Sautéed king prawns, mussel salad and roast capsicum gazpacho w fennel seed wafer

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Moet & Chandon & passion fruit palette cleanser

Pork and scallops w pea puree and salted caramel

Szechuan pork belly and scallops w pancetta, pea puree and salted caramel

Confit duck plate up

Confit duck w porcini risotto, sugar cured breast, star anise foam and coffee hazelnut praline

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Make sure you don’t forget to drizzle…

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Ulrich’s dessert: Flambe peach w strawberry Swiss roll and vanilla bean ice cream

 And the winner is…..        

With a ballot system reminiscent of the Florida election 2000 the GM wins. Until next time… But now it’s time for a drink!

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Restaurant Jekyll and Hyde

photo(1)The restaurant industry is a strange and fickle beast. A reputation can take years upon years of hard slog, blood, sweat and possibly tears (literally) to create and only seconds to destroy. Ever heard of the saying “you’re only as good as your last dish”? This is usually followed by “and right now, you’re a c**t”… In order to run a successful restaurant or kitchen to a consistently high standard you need to be like the gestapo; eyes and ears everywhere and know EVERYTHING that goes on with EVERYONE. There’s two things the X-Files and kitchens have in common. They’re both full of strange interesting characters living in the fringes of society and they both have the same tagline: Trust NO-ONE. Or as one of my first chef’s eloquently put: “don’t trust any fu**er”… (chef’s are well known for their colourful language; it’s one of the things that makes us so interesting right?). If for one second you decide to turn your back, think “yeah nothing’s happening now until our late bookings, I can nip out for a cigarette”, that’s when your commis chef will accidentally send out the medium rare chicken and fuck everything up for you. You need to be anal in the extreme. Nothing should go out unless it’s up to your standard. This will not make you friends. But this will give you happy customers. Hopefully. If you are really lucky you will have some allies in the kitchen who will be your eyes and ears. People who “get you”, understand what your standard is and how you work. Know your pet hates. Hang onto these people and look after them because they are more valuable than their weight in gold. They will certainly make your life a hell of a lot easier and hopefully mean you can do less than 70hrs per week.

What does it take to piss off a customer? Sometimes a lot and sometimes nothing. I find it very interesting how people behave in restaurants and bars. I’m sure it would make a very good psychology paper for someone. It seems to me that hospitality is the only industry in which people feel like they can turn into pricks the second they walk through the door. Seemingly normal and respectable people, people with families and jobs; they have the ability to turn into monsters inside the doors where alcohol and food are served. Maybe it’s something to do with wanting to wind down and relax that somehow the rules of the outside world don’t apply. I have narrowed it down to a few cliche customer types that seem to appear no matter where you go:

Sir grab-a-lot – These are the guys that try and slap the waitresses arses and use such stunning lines as “so whats the cream sauce like? How would you like to try my cream sauce sweet heart?”. A restaurant is not a strip bar. And everybody knows that the golden rule in a strip bar is no touching. Unless you are VIP…

Aggressive drunk – “What do you mean you can only serve me a glass of water?! I’ll tell YOU when I’ve had enough!” (falls over taking a bar stool with him). This is where you hope you work in a dodgy enough place so as to have a bouncer.

Chronic complainer – The food’s too hot, the wine’s too cold, I don’t like my table, the people over there are laughing too much, I don’t like anything on the menu, this costs too much etc…I remember once have a dish sent back because it wasn’t hot enough, it was pretty hot so we heated it again, and back it came, so we nuked the shit out of it and it still came back. I’m sorry but on this planet with this atmosphere the hottest I can get a liquid before it turns to steam so unless you are on another planet (which you quite possibly are) then I can’t do much more for you.

Cheater – This is the person who tries tricks like orders a drink from one person, hides the glass and then complains to another person that they never got it. Or order the steak, eat 90% of it and then complain it’s under cooked.

Menu changers – “Can I have the fish but without the spice crust, the sauce from the beef and do you do paella? Can I have some paella with it too? I’m allergic to onion, garlic, salt, chilli and herbs.” I would suggest eating at home…

Vegans (et al) – Now not to say anything against vegans, I actually respect proper vegans or anyone who has decided that something is morally wrong and stick to their guns. I think a hell of a lot of animals are treated badly on their journey ending on our tables, that’s why I try my best to make sure that I know where my ingredients come from, how they’re produced and whether or not they’re sustainable without a negative affect on the environment. However if you are a vegan do not come to a steak house and then complain.

Cheap skates and hagglers – If you buy petrol and then drive off without paying you would expect to get arrested. ‘Doing a runner’ is what other people would call ‘stealing from a restaurant’. And unless you are on Khao San Road in Bangkok or in another acceptable place such as Saigon or Mumbai then don’t haggle. You don’t go to the dentist and haggle and the prices they charge are mental so why haggle over a sandwich?!

Money flashers – “I will have the Wagyu well done and your most expensive MerloTT,make sure it’s well chilled and hurry up about it” = Plonker.

Bill splitters – Is there anything more dreadful to hear to a cashier than “can we split the bill 12 ways?” Paying up should be a quick and painless experience, not a torturous ordeal with detailed investigations and discussions. If you must split the bill evenly and if you are a large group consider cash. Having to individually itemise a large party’s dishes and then have to split the fries or a bottle of wine by 3/7th’s because someone only had “half of one glass” and someone else had “2 and 1/3 glasses” it a total nightmare.

The internet food expert – It is amazing how the anonymity of the internet allows people with no qualifications in restaurant reviewing the opportunity to express their expertise. Yet these same people will not complain in person when given the chance to actually address their issue and maybe enjoy their night. “How is your meal?” “Fine thank you…” and then the next day you read on the internet a post headed: “Disgusting food and rubbish service, never again”. I remember one table of two ordered lamb cutlets so we roast a whole rack and then carved it for both. One of the two said it was perfect and his wife said it was undercooked. Our offer of cooking it some more was declined. The next day I read on the internet how I told them to “just shut up and eat it”… At least it made for a more interesting story than the truth!

Other hospos – Believe it or not we are actually our own worse enemies. People in the restaurant industry work hard and usually “play hard”. The group of people with tattoo’s who are obviously intoxicated, breaking furniture, stealing alcohol and shagging in the toilets? They probably work at the restaurant down the road…

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Tom Kha Goong – Thai prawn soup

WR8A9383Until I worked with Thai chefs I thought Tom Yum soup was Tom Yum soup. There are actually many variations; all different and delicious in their own way. Now here’s a quick Thai lesson as I see it:

Tom Kha = Creamy soup (coconut cream or evaporated milk)

Tom Yum = Clear soup

Gai = Chicken

Goong = Prawns

Talay = Seafood

Here is my recipe for my favorite Thai soup, Tom Kha Goong, or spicy prawn and lemongrass soup with coconut and mushrooms. Feel free to use chicken stock but I actually prefer to shell the prawns and use the heads and shells to make my own prawn stock.

 

Tom Kha Goong
Serves 6
Thai prawn, coconut and lemongrass spicy soup
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Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
200g Prawns
800ml Chicken Stock (or prawn stock)
2 sticks Lemongrass
3-4 Fresh red chilli
100g Straw mushroom (canned is still ok)
100g punnet Cherry tomatoes
3cl Garlic
1knob ginger (or galangal)
2-4 Limes (juice)
Fish sauce (nam pla) - to taste
1/2 bunch Coriander
200ml Coconut cream (or evaporated milk)
6 Kaffir lime leaves
Instructions
Peel and slice the ginger, slice the garlic and slice the lemongrass and chilli (reserve some chilli for garnish).
Pound lightly the kaffir lime leaves with your knife handle to release some of the oils.
Bring the stock to the simmer and add the ginger, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and chilli. Infuse for 15-20 minutes. Halve the mushrooms and add to the soup with the whole cherry tomatoes and prawns and gently cook until the prawns are just done.
Add the coconut cream.
Season with some fish sauce and lime juice and a little sugar if you like.
Transfer to bowls and finish with some of the reserved chilli and coriander.
MacLean Fraser http://macleanfraser.com/

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Brawn w smoked oysters, celeriac remoulade and cider reduction

Brawn w pickled tongue, smoked oysters and vanilla cider reduction

You can’t get much more old school than brawn. If you haven’t tried it you’re really missing out, just don’t be put off that it is essentially a jellied boiled pigs head. If you don’t want to make it with the other accompaniments then you can serve a big slice of it with some crusty baguette and chutney. 

Brawn with smoked oyster, crackling, cider and celeriac
Serves 12
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Prep Time
45 min
Cook Time
4 hr
Total Time
4 hr 45 min
Prep Time
45 min
Cook Time
4 hr
Total Time
4 hr 45 min
Brawn
1 pigs head
2 carrots
½ leek
2 sticks celery
3 cl garlic
3 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme
1 onion
Pickle mix
400ml Red wine vinegar
400g Sugar
800ml water
4 star anise
4 cloves
4 bay leaves
2 sprig thyme
12 peppercorns
8cl garlic
1 tspn Coriander seeds
Pork crackling
pork skin
salt
Tea-smoked oysters
1 dozen oysters
50g Brown sugar
50g Jasmine tea
50g Rice
Vanilla and Cider reduction
500ml Cider
200ml Apple juice
1 Vanilla pod
Celeriac Remoulade
Celeriac
Mayo
Wholegrain mustard
Italian Parsley
Brawn part 1
Remove tongues and set aside to pickle.
Soak heads in running water to remove any blood.
Place in a pot with the peeled carrots and all other ingredients, top with water and simmer until meat is falling off the bone.
For the tongues
Simmer tongues in pickling mix until very tender (may need to top up with water if it evaporates too much).
Set aside and remove outside skin and any fat etc. Roughly shred.
Brawn assembly
Pass and keep the veg.
Shred the meat medium coarse, discarding any sinew and skin/bones.
It’s nice if you keep some skin, fat and anything that isn’t bone.
Dice three carrots and mince with your knife one onion and one leek. Mix together with the pickled tongue the meat and veg, season, roll tight and torque in glad wrap (or set in a terrine mould) and leave to set overnight.
For the crackling
Scrape fat off back of pork skin and score, cut into 1cm x 5cm pieces, season, press and roast in a hot oven until crispy.
For the smoked oysters
Allow smoke mix to get going well before placing oysters on rack over it
Turn off flame-cover loosely –allow to infuse, store in light olive oil w bouquet garni.
For the reduction
Split vanilla pod and scrape the seeds out into the pot, combine all ingredients and simmer to a light syrup.
For the remoulade
Julienne celeriac, soak in acidulated water.
Drain and dry, fold though mayo, add dijon to taste and chopped herbs.
Season.
MacLean Fraser http://macleanfraser.com/
 

 

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Why I love Thai food

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As I sit at the over water bar on my day off, computer on my lap and cocktail in my hand, I turn to my wife and ask what “would you like to do for dinner?” This is always a big decision for me and sometimes drives my wife up the bend. Despite what most people think about chefs, I am not a fussy eater, I will try almost anything and enjoy any food no matter how simple or humble if it is done well. Deciding what to eat sometimes can be a big decision; sometimes it’s all so good! “Let’s have Thai” my wife responds and I happily agree.

View from Italian looking over pool bar

I am all about Thai food right now and have always appreciated it since trying “real Thai” during my first posting in Asia. When at Pacific Regency hotel in KL I had the pleasure of overseeing a Thai restaurant. Luckily for me the whole Thai kitchen brigade were Thai and were led by a very talented cook Alex (real name unknown). Most of the experiences I had (thought) I had with Thai food back home had actually been watered down and “westernized” versions of stock standard Thai staples. Often cooked by non-Thai and executed poorly.

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Why do I have such a soft spot for Thai food? Perhaps it reminds me of good times. It’s fresh and spicy with clean, vibrant and clearly defined flavors;  many things that many great dishes aspire to be irrespective of style or country of origin. It has appeal to everyone, whether sitting in the fine dining Thai restaurant on the 23rd story of my old hotel in KL with my then girlfriend (later my fiancee then wife) or sitting with old friends in a car park on cheap plastic tables and chairs in Bangkok it’s just so goddamn enjoyable. Apparently there’s a chemical in chili’s which react with the receptors in the tongue the same way as heat (no shit) and register as burning, this pain causes the body to release endorphin’s. So it’s fresh, spicy and gives you endorphin’s… what more could you want?!

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How to make it as a chef…

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Being a chef is one of those jobs that many people think would be cool but don’t understand the reality of the industry. With the recent explosion in the last few years of cooking shows, reality TV and the rise of the celebrity chef, it is a career path that has become glorified by the few who make a living totally unlike the other 99% of people who do this “noble toil”. I think back to when I did my chef training and the motley crew of (mostly) rejects of society who for a plethora of reasons (if any) decided to start down the path of culinary glory. Or perhaps they just didn’t have the grades to get into uni.

So without further ado here is my list for:

How to make it as a chef

(or how to not get yelled at and possibly fired when working in a kitchen).

Look the part

The first step in being a chef is looking like a chef. How you present yourself reflects on how you will work. If you turn up looking like you have slept in your uniform and don’t care enough to have had a shower or shaved then chances are you also don’t care too much about your work.

Work clean

Nobody wants to work with a messy chef, how you look and work is an insight into your present state of mind. If you look a mess and your work station is a mess then your thoughts are probably a mess. In which case you probably won’t be able to work in a logical and organised manner and then you are a liability to yourself and those around you.

Do as you are told

When working in a kitchen one needs to understand it is a high pressure environment with very real and serious time constraints. There is nothing more annoying than someone with an opinion you didn’t ask for. Opinions are like arseholes; everybody’s got one. Assume your head chef/sous chef didn’t get where they were by being an idiot so if they tell you a specific way of doing something then it’s best to do it. When you’ve spend years learning your craft and are in a position to do things your way then you can tell people how you want things (and hope they do as they’re told…)

Keep it to yourself

(or don’t trust any fucker)

When working a busy service there is nothing more annoying than someone telling you their life story when asked a quick simple question. The longest response generally accepted in a very busy service is of two words in length; yes chef, no chef or 2 minutes are the safest answers. This goes for when prepping as well, if someone is pissing you off then the best bet is to assume whatever you tell someone it will get back to them. The safest topics are girls, sports and taking the piss out of the junior staff/waiters.

Be reliable

If your chef asks you to do something and you do it when and how you said you would then you will be a real asset. I mentioned already not to trust anyone, if you become the person that the chef can trust then you will go places. Be reliable with your time and attendance. The work in the kitchen is very time sensitive and isn’t like any other job where if you leave on Friday then the work will still be there on your desk on Monday. If you do a dreaded ‘no show’ at work or turn up late then other people will have to pick up your slack and do your work and possibly even get the feared phone call on your day off. Do this enough times and your team will start to resent you, stop helping you when you are ‘in the weeds’, be apathetic if they see somethings of yours in the oven about to burn or even be pro active in stitching you up. Moral of the story is: turn up to work!

Don’t chase the money

The work might suck, the money is rubbish, your head chef may be a prick, but if you’re learning something and progressing your career then stick it out. Think about the long term. If you work in respected places learning from good chefs then you can go far. The wider your base the further you can reach. Think about what you want to do and where you want to go and make a plan on how you’re going to get there then execute it. If you get fed up and throw in the towel early in your career when the work is the toughest then that is as far as you will go. Stick it out and have a plan and who knows, you might even make it to the top.

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Lamb rack recipe and E-book on it’s way…

Here’s a preview of the upcoming E-book. For this particular recipe I used  Leelands lamb shoulder racks. Leelands Lamb is run by Bill French in Invercargill, New Zealand and in my opinion their lamb is one of the best in the world. Here I have used a lamb shoulder rack and cooked it pink. Unless you have a very high quality lamb shoulder then I would suggest you use a traditional lamb rack for this.

Dukkah crusted lamb w artichokes, beetroot & brains

 

Spice crusted lamb shoulder rack, salt n pepper brains, Jerusalem artichokes, broad beans, beetroot puree
Serves 8
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Prep Time
45 min
Cook Time
30 min
Prep Time
45 min
Cook Time
30 min
Lamb brains
one per person
Lamb racks
½ rack per person
Court Bouillon
(see basics)
Salt n pepper flour
500 gr tempura flour
2 T gr. black pepper
2 T sea salt
2 t seven spice
2 nori sheets toasted-ground
Spiced beetroot puree
20g coriander seeds
20g cumin seeds
5 g allspice
1kg beetroot
60g greek yoghurt
30ml olive oil
2 tspn balsamic
Vegetables
Jerusalem artichokes
Broad beans
Dukkah
Store bought or make your own (see basics)
For the spice flour
Grind together the spices and mix well with the flour.
Keep in an air tight container.
For the brains
Combine all the court bouillon ingredients together and simmer for 15mins to infuse.
Drop the brains in, simmer for 2mins and then remove from the heat and leave for 5-10mins, then drain.
Can cool in the fridge for later use or use straight away.
Dust in the salt n pepper flour and deep fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and season.
For the puree
Bake the beetroot in the oven at 160 with a cup of water until tender. (This will take about an hour). Check half way through to make sure the water hasn’t evaporated; you only need about a centimetre in the bottom of the tray.
Once cooked remove, discard the water and rub off the skins while still hot. You will want to use disposable gloves for this.
Roast off the spices and grind to a powder.
Cut the beetroot roughly and while still hot blend together with all the other ingredients.
Season.
For the veg
Peel the artichokes and cook in salted water until just cooked.
If you overcook they will turn to mush.
Peel the broad beans and wash.
To serve
Roast the lamb roll in dukkah after resting for 10mins then carve.
Pan fry thin slices of the Jerusalem artichokes in a little oil, butter and garlic.
Add broad beans at the end.
Serve the lamb on the artichokes and broad beans with beetroot puree, the fried brains and a little jus and herbs.
MacLean Fraser http://macleanfraser.com/

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